Why married women apply vermillion?

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In India vermilion or sindoor as it is called is the symbol of fertility, it is therefore applied on the forehead as a dot or on the hair parting of the woman signifying that she is married. A key ritual in Indian marriages is application of vermilion by the groom on his bride, signifying their marital bond, which she applies everyday for the rest of life till her husband's death.

A version used in Hindu rituals or puja is known as Kumkum. This lends itself to the name of a wedding ritual in some Hindu communities, known as 'Haldi-Kumkum'. The sindoor is first applied to the woman by her husband on the day of her wedding and is called as Sindoor Dana ceremony. After this time she must apply this every day herself in the parting of her hairline.

The wiping off of the sindoor is very significant for a widow. There are many rituals associated with this practice. The most common being the mother-in-law or older sister-in-law wiping off the sindoor when the woman becomes a widow. The widow will break her bangles and remove her bindi as well. Many Hindu women will remove their nose ring and toe rings as well. The parting of hair is symbolic of river of red blood full of life. When the sindoor is removed then the river becomes barren, dry and empty. This custom is prevalent in rural areas and is followed by all castes and social ranks.

The red sindoor is significant for the married woman as she is full of colour. When she becomes a widow she adopts the white dress and removes all colour from her face including the bright red sindoor.

Methods and styles of applying the sindoor vary from personal choice to regional customs. Many new brides will fill the whole hair line with sindoor, while other married women may just apply a red spot at the end of the hair line and forehead. Recently, a triangle shape on the forehead pointing towards the nose, added with a diamond bindi for fashion is being worn by younger women.

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